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University of Cambridge Centre for Gender Studies


Elizabeth Yarrow

Gendered bodies: institutions, sex binarism, and the experiences of gender minority youth within health and education systems

Supervisor: Dr Robbie Duschinsky (Department of Public Health and Primary Care)






My doctoral research focuses on gender variance in childhood and young adulthood in the UK. Through examining the experience of trans, intersex, non-binary and gender non-conforming children and youth in their interactions with schools and health systems, my work explores and theorises the relationships between gendered categories, institutions, power and identity. I ask, how categories of ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ organise aspects of identity during childhood, how gendered embodiment is regulated through institutional practices, and what happens when the embodied lives of gender diverse children come into confrontation with specific ideological and discursive constructions of ‘childhood’, ‘sex’, ‘gender’ and ‘sexuality’, embedded within the practices and logics of public institutions. Questions explored during the research will include (amongst others):

 - How do gender diverse youth experience education and health systems and services in the UK?

- How do these experiences influence aspects of young people’s wellbeing?

- What practical changes, and alternative conceptions of gender, might, if embedded within institutional structures, lead to better outcomes for gender diverse youth?


I have an MA in Social and Political Sciences from the University of Cambridge. Since graduating in 2007, I have been working in development research, evaluation and programming, undertaking social research projects for UN agencies and NGOs internationally. My recent research has particularly focused on exploring the intersections of childhood, gender, sexuality and violence, and young people’s access to sexual and reproductive rights, in a diversity of countries around the world, including India, Myanmar, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Sri Lanka and the UK. 


Peer Review articles and book chapters:

Anderson, K., Apland, K., Yarrow, E., ‘Unaccompanied and unprotected: the systemic vulnerability of migrant children in South Africa’, 25 Years of the Convention on the Rights of the Child – Conference Book, Tom Liefaar and Julia Sloth-Nielsen (eds), Leiden University Press, (forthcoming) 2015.

Hamilton, C., Yarrow, E., ‘Preventing and Addressing Child Offending: Restorative Justice and Family Focused Programming’ in Women and Children as Victims and Offenders: Background – Prevention – Reintegration. Suggestions for Succeeding Generations, Helmut Kury, Slawomir Redo and Evelyn Shea (eds), Springer, (forthcoming) 2016 edition.

Yarrow, E.& al., ‘Can a restrictive law serve a protective purpose? The impact of age restrictive laws on young people’s access to sexual and reproductive health rights’, Reproductive Health Matters, RHM44-001_002, December 2014.

Research reports:

Yarrow, E., ‘Research on the Causes and Consequences of Young People’s Sexual and Reproductive Health Related Behaviours in Northern Shan, Myanmar’, Coram International, 2016

Yarrow, E. et al. ‘Getting the Evidence: Asia Child Marriage Initiative’, Plan Asia, 2015

Anderson, K., Apland, K., Yarrow, E., ‘An Unenforceable Law: An analysis of policy, practice and political narratives shaping the detention and protection of migrant women and children in South Africa’, Coram Children’s Legal Centre, June 2015

Yarrow, E., ‘Young People’s Access to Sexual and Reproductive Health Services in Senegal’ International Planned Parenthood Federation, 2014;

Apland, K., Hamilton, C., Blitz, B., Lagaay, M., Lakshman, R., Yarrow, E., ‘Birth Registration and Children’s Rights: A Complex Story’, Plan International, 2014

Yarrow, E., Hamilton, C., Watkins, J., ‘An Assessment to Identify Entry Point into Child Protection within Early Childhood Development in Malawi’ UNICEF, 2012 2012